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Resolving Conflict Among Your Filipino Outsourcing Staff

May 22, 2017 Claire Ponsaran

Conflict exists in every workplace. According to management experts, it’s a universal sign that there’s a healthy exchange of ideas between co-workers. How they interact with each other when resolving conflict in the workplace will depend on their social and cultural backgrounds.

Surprisingly, Filipinos have similar conflict management styles as Americans. While their conflict behaviors differ from the Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese, they also have similarities with their fellow Asians. If you’re a client who works with Filipino outsourcing staff, then learning how they respond to conflict tells you how to effectively manage them even when you’re not around.

Conflict Behaviors of Filipinos

Your outsourcing staff in the Philippines will display different conflict management styles depending on the rank and relationship between them. A team member who had a heated argument with the team leader will oftentimes be accommodating and compromising, so both can quickly resolve the issue between them. In some instances, the team leader or manager will likely use their position of authority and power to push the other person into submission.

When friends argue, however, they may feel a deep emotional pain from such conflict. They’ll likely show an avoiding or competing style, which may lead to a confrontation between them that will end their friendship.

The key to managing conflicts well among your staff is to have a clearer understanding of why Filipinos tend to avoid confrontations with their co-workers. Many of them will go out of their way to be as accommodating with the wishes of their superiors as possible. They’ll also avoid bringing up the issue with a higher authority or with their peers just to keep the peace in the office.

The Concepts of Hiya and Saving Face

The Filipino concept of “hiya” is rooted in sociocultural constructs of saving face, self-pride, and social sensitivity. These constructs are part of a high-context and collectivist culture like the Philippines. In Filipino society, relationships are central. Filipinos place great value on being sensitive to social context (delicadeza). They have a keen awareness of what’s appropriate to say and do in any given situation.

When these unspoken rules are broken, they experience hiya or embarrassment from doing something that the “group” (in this case, Filipino society) will surely disapprove. To save face is to avoid experiencing hiya. Filipinos will go to great lengths to defend their pride. Such ferocity can even lead to violence.

With this in mind, Canada’s Centre for Interculture Learning provided a short but effective advice on how to deal with conflict among your Filipino staff without putting them on the spot.

Filipinos prefer to save “face” (self-pride) rather than feel shame (“hiya”) for a sudden act or a wrong decision. So it is better to discuss privately with a colleague “strategies for better implementation of work” (use this phrase instead of work-related problems). It is difficult to know if a colleague is having problems with you because Filipinos do not like to assert themselves or appear aggressive.

The Filipino Concept of Damayan

During a meeting, do not call out a colleague for a perceived wrong or even a misdemeanor. You’re effectively challenging that other person to a fight or making your staff resent you. It’s not just the affected person who feels the pain of your insensitive remarks. The rest of the group feels it as well.

This is where the concept of “damayan” comes in. At this point, you’ll need to talk to your team. Explain what’s happening and what your next course of action will be.

People often say “nakikiramay ako sa ‘yo” to the family of the deceased when visiting a wake. It’s a phrase meant to convey sympathy for the ones left behind and grieving.

In essence, this same sympathy arises when a member of a close-knit team is perceived as being unfairly criticized or shamed into submission. This group dynamic holds them together like glue. This collective emotion pushes them to ease their friend’s pain with soothing words. And, they band together in resolving conflict within the group.

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2 Comments on “Resolving Conflict Among Your Filipino Outsourcing Staff

    1. Thank you, too, for creating such a well-researched and insightful article on Filipino culture and conflict management. I think your work is a gem and I should link to it, so everyone can find out more about Filipino culture.

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